The Western Journal: The 1 Important Difference Between The Senate Tax Bill And The House Bill That Passed

Following the successful passage of tax reform in the House, pressure is mounting on Senate Republicans to push through their own bill quickly.

President Donald Trump, who has been criticized for not leading any substantial legislative victories in his first 10 months in office, had previously stated he wants to see a tax bill sitting on his desk by Christmas.

For that to happen, the Senate will need to pass tax reform and then negotiate in conference with the House on a uniform bill to smooth out the differences — which may be a lot easier to say than do.

One major obstacle will be that the Senate tax bill includes a repeal of the health care individual mandate — a defining part of Obamacare.

Trump visited Capitol Hill on Thursday to rally Republicans before House members passed their bill in a strict party-line vote.

The 227-205 vote was a major win for House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was able to see his goal of passing tax reform in the House by Thanksgiving succeed. Ultimately, only 13 Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the measure, leaving the GOP victorious.

“We are in a generational-defining moment for our country,” Ryan said on the House floor ahead of the monumental vote. “It is finally time that we get the general interest of this country to prevail over the special interests in Washington.”

If signed into law in its current form, the 440-page House bill would be the biggest overhaul of the American tax system in over three decades.

The comprehensive measure lowers the corporate tax rate to its lowest point since 1939, cuts taxes for the majority of Americans, repeals the alternative minimum tax, terminates the estate tax by 2025, increases the child tax credit and revamps the American system for taxing multinational corporations — among other things, The Wall Street Journal reported.

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP senators are optimistic, passage is not certain considering the slim 52-48 majority the GOP currently holds in the upper chamber.

Assuming no Democrat comes on board, Senate Republicans can afford no more than two defections. However, one Republican, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, has already announced his opposition to the bill.

Claiming it benefits corporations over small businesses, Johnson announced he could not support the bill in its current form, but also said he could change his mind if his suggestions are heeded.

“If they can pass it without me, let them,” Johnson told The Wall Street Journal. “I’m not going to vote for this tax package.”

 

In an attempt to salvage Johnson’s vote, Trump spoke to the Wisconsin senator over the phone Wednesday night and asked him to explain his reservations. Johnson was also scheduled to meet with Treasury staffers Thursday to analyze the bill further.

The current predicament leaves Senate GOP leaders walking an extremely tight rope, only able to lose one other Republican lawmaker or else likely fail to pass tax reform.

When the House passed its own tax reform Thursday, the few Republicans who voted against the bill — mostly hailing from high-tax states such as California and New York — carried deep reservations due to the rollbacks on state and local tax deductions, something residents in high-tax states benefit from.

This issue of state and local tax deductions, or SALT deductions, is expected to be amplified in the upper chamber as lawmakers debate specific details.

But perhaps the most controversial provision in the Senate version is the individual mandate repeal, a measure that would gut the heart of Obamacare.

Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, expressed her concern with the mandate repeal. Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, two Republicans who voted against GOP health care reform this year, are also considered swing votes.

However, many conservatives — including Republican candidates for office — would welcome such measures.

“I liked the GOP tax reform plan a lot more earlier in the process,” said Republican Senate candidate Austin Petersen in a statement to The Western Journal.

Petersen is campaigning to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, and wants to see the tax code simplified and Obamacare abolished.

“To be clear, I’ve always been supportive of a flat tax — eliminating all the loopholes and deductions, radically simplifying the process, and truly leveling the playing field for all individuals and businesses,” Petersen explained. “The more we can move in that direction, the better.”

However, the Libertarian-turned-Republican has become somewhat disheartened with the current negotiations on tax reform.

“Unfortunately, it seems the longer this legislative process takes, the more the swamp gets its hooks into the GOP plan, and the more watered down it becomes. I’m anxious to see what legislation the House and Senate actually vote on, but I’m not optimistic regarding the outcome.”

Other conservative candidates are campaigning on a repeal of the individual mandate as well. A spokesman for GOP Senate candidate Patrick Morrisey, the West Virginia attorney general running to oust longtime Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, confirmed to The Journal the candidate’s desire to see the mandate repealed and taxes lowered.

As for the Republican senators currently in office, only time will tell how they vote.

This article appeared in The Western Journal on November 17, 2017.